Ellen Berscheid’s theoretical and empirical work is primarily in the domain of close interpersonal relationships. She is particularly interested in problems associated with relationship satisfaction and stability, relationship cognition, and emotional experiences within relationships, especially love and sexual desire.
Berscheid’s pioneering studies of physical attractiveness and love are landmarks in the field, establishing these as core phenomena for the study of social life. Her research and theorizing on interpersonal attraction and emotion in relationships have provided the blueprint for countless scholars for more than three decades. Berscheid is known for her inspirational writing, her commitment to precision and rigor in theorizing and research, and her vision in charting the field’s progress.
Berscheid’s recent theoretical and empirical work has been directed toward understanding how features of the relationship’s “exterior” — its physical and social environments — influence the relationship’s “interior” and the partners’ satisfaction with the relationship. Her research group currently conducts investigations of the factors people believe are enhancing the quality of their current romantic relationships and those they believe are reducing its quality from what it would otherwise be.
Ellen Berscheid received her doctorate in 1965 from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, where she has remained ever since, ultimately as Regents Professor of Psychology. A major in English literature at Wisconsin’s Beloit College, she transferred to the University of Nevada, Reno, where she encountered Heider’s psychology through Paul Secord, graduating with a simultaneous BA-MA in both Psychology and English. Her graduate work with Harold Kelley and Eliott Aronson at Minnesota was followed by her field-founding work on relationships with Elaine Hatfield. Among her many awards are the APA Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the International Association for Relationship Research’s Distinguished Career Contribution Award, and Proxmire’s Golden Fleece Award; the latter provoked a controversy demonstrating that people really do want to learn about love.
Individuals Honoring Ellen Berscheid
Arthur Aron, Stony Brook University
Eugene Borgida, University of Minnesota
* Susan Fiske, Princeton University
Peter Glick, Lawrence University
John Holmes, University of Waterloo
Ted L. Huston, University of Texas
Alana Matwychuk, Truro Psychiatric & Psychological Associates
Letitia Peplau, University of California, Los Angeles
Pamela Regan, California State University, Los Angeles
* Harry Reis, University of Rochester
Laurie Rudman, Rutgers University
Phillip Shaver, University of California, Davis
Jeffry Simpson, University of Minnesota
Mark Snyder, University of Minnesota
Susan Sprecher, Illinois State University
* The FABBS Foundation would like to thank Dr. Harry Reis and Dr. Susan Fiske for nominating Dr. Berscheid for this honor and for leading the effort to spread the word about her nomination.